Monday, December 8, 2008

Opening Lines

We struggle over those opening lines. Wanting to capture just the right tone, grab the readers attention and make them want more. We write and re-write and agonize over those words.

And then I glance at a scrap copy of something my eleven-year-old is writing. I see the first few lines:

She stared out the window nervously. "He's bound to come soon. To take him away." She sputtered, wringing her hands.

Now I don't know what that story is about - but from that first line, I sure want to. If I were helping my daughter edit, I'd tell her that she can leave out the word "nervously", that "wringing her hands" conveys that quite nicely. But I think she's got a great opener here. I'll have to find out what the rest of the story is about.

And one more from my daughter - another opener that makes me want to keep reading.

"Sir, will we have to go to the chessboard?" I asked weakly.

"Yes, of course. It's another battle, isn't it?" The king asked me, peering over the rims of his wiry glasses. His crown was slipping off of his oily head, and with fat fingers he tried to catch it.

Peeking ahead I see that this is a story told from the point of view of a pawn on a chessboard. These lines make me want to find out more. How about you? What grabs your attention, makes you want to read past the first line? And conversely: what kind of first lines make you fee like putting the book down right away?


  1. I think you've got a future writer on your hands!

    For me, I want a first line that puts me right in the story. Start in the action! Or, give me a first line that shows me something important about the character, some sort of insight that gives me an idea of who this person is.

  2. Nice lines!
    What makes me want to put a book down is when it seems the writer hasn't given any thought really to what the first line should do. It should draw in the reader to where they want to read on. It should hook. I know it seems so gimmicky, but I guess it is.

  3. WOW! But be careful with your editor's red pencil! Remember, creativity and art trump the "rules" every time!